Content Writing

Content Isn't King

Content Isn’t King

A certain myth is common on the Internet. It is the myth that Content is King.

There are several meanings attached to this phrase. Let’s review how it all got started.

Bill Gates

Bill Gates may have started this Content is King hysteria back in 1996 with a column published 1/3/96, by the title of Content is King, wherein Mr. Gates opined thus:

Content is where I expect much of the real money will be made on the Internet…

I expect societies will see intense competition-and ample failure as well as success in all categories of popular content-not just software and news, but also games, entertainment, sports programming, directories, classified advertising, and online communities devoted to major interests…

If people are to be expected to put up with turning on a computer to read a screen, they must be rewarded with deep and extremely up-to-date information that they can explore at will. They need to have audio, and possibly video…

For the Internet to thrive, content providers must be paid for their work. The long-term prospects are good, but I expect a lot of disappointment in the short term as content companies struggle to make money through advertising or subscriptions. It isn’t working yet, and it may not for some time…

In the long run, advertising is promising. An advantage of interactive advertising is that an initial message needs only to attract attention rather than convey much information. A user can click on the ad to get additional information-and an advertiser can measure whether people are doing so…

…technology will liberate publishers to charge small amounts of money, in the hope of attracting wide audiences.

In other words, Mr. Gates expected the bulk of the money to be made by content sites, not by five-page or ten-page eCommerce sites.

The revenue of which he spoke was supposedly to come from advertisers buying ad space on content sites, and from subscriptions.

He was, of course, wrong.

The year is now 2003, and anyone with an IQ over 40 has realized that consumers don’t click through. Banner advertising is dead. Studies show that consumers train themselves to block out banner advertising within seconds of arriving at a website.

As we saw the banner click-through ratio drop to 0.2%, content sites scrambled to subscriptions, where they met with even more disappointment. The Internet is, after all, the ideal medium for the free exchange of information. And, as RIAA found out, not just information.

Ecommerce, Not Content

Ecommerce sites – not content sites – are where the bulk of the money is being made.

The Real World

content site with 1,000,000 uniques and over four million page views per month displaying Google Adsense achieves a CTR of 2.5% with an average click at $0.20. Twenty-five thousand clicks though’s and the grand prize is a paltry $5,000.

By contrast, an eCommerce site with the same 1,000,000 uniques per month, selling hosting at $100 per year with a conversion ratio of 4% just grossed $ 4,000,000. Do the math. Content isn’t King. It never was King. It never will be King. Welcome to the real world.

What is Quality Content?

What is Quality Content?

Lots of people tell you to make quality content, but they fail to ever define what quality is. What quality are people talking about when they say make quality content? Long, short, easy reading, snappy, robust, colorful, interesting, unique, bla bla bla…

Searching the Web for Quality Content

Google Search: Quality Content yielded me

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As we look at Using Quality Content to help Promote Your Site it describes quality content as articles that can improve your site and link popularity. True enough, but most syndication resources will not want to syndicate your information until AFTER you have already made a name for yourself.

The second search result is a PDF from The Children’s Partnership stating their goal to help ensure poor people have access to quality content on the web and covers related issues. A worthy goal, but it still really does not explicitly define what I am looking for.

Yahoo! Search: Quality Content yielded me

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As we look at Web Page Content we see “High-quality web content impresses people and search engines. Learn how to get your message across clearly and quickly.” The problem there is that your message does not get spread until after people find your site.

At Webmaster World the two people who best tried to describe it said that it was “spider food & content for users” or “usefulness & presentation.” The thread seemed a bit generic with some people offering specific word counts. There is tons of advice on the web about how to write great articles, but articles are only one part of quality content.

Teoma Search: Quality Content yielded me

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At Gerry Mc Govern’s site we read “Whether you have an intranet or public website, you want real results from your content. You want it to drive profits, productivity, new student enrollment, customer satisfaction, citizen empowerment. You’ve come to the right place.” and later he states “I’ve been involved in the Web since 1994. I’ve spoken and consulted on web content in 25 countries,” which in and of itself is a revealing statement.

On the second page, I saw a broken image and a bunch of ugly images at the top of the page. I clicked on the home page and they had links selling cheap printer cartridges. Those might be good for printing out my quality content, but those ads certainly are not “quality content.”

Why Quality Content Sucks

The problem with the idea of “build quality content” is that nobody reads it until AFTER you have established a reputation for yourself. Gerry Mc Govern has been involved with the web since 1994. He has spoken and consulted on web content in 25 countries.

Reputation First

People will not usually give your quality content a chance unless you build a reputation first. The letters I type now probably are not that much different than what I would type a year or so ago. The biggest difference is that I have tried hard to build a reputation.

You can write a thousand pages all day long on your site and absolutely nobody is going to care if they do not know who you are.

Commercial Interests

People are not interested in linking into a new competitor and saying “this guy really knows what he is talking about.” It is far easier to create good ideas worth spreading than trying to spread your commercial interests.

People do not usually naturally link into most sites selling things. The whole concept here is to be remarkable and to get people to want to link to your site.

Good copywriting can sure make a bunch of sales, but Corey Rule (thought to be an internet marketing God by some) only shows a few hundred backlinks in Google.

Seth Godin has a marketing blog that gives away free ideas. Most of his posts average a few trackbacks and his home page has well over a thousand backlinks in Google.

Ideas vs Copy

Since the web is nothing but a huge social network it is the people who can come up with the best ideas that win. On one of my first sites (Search Marketing Info), I created hundreds of pages about search engine marketing providing lots of free tips. Nobody really linked into it. Nobody cared. Now I am updating it and pondering whether or not it is worth rewriting hundreds of pages that people probably do not even care about.

It is much easier to sell ideas than to sell copy.

My First Big Break

In the middle of November of 2003 Google extremely changed its algorithm. There were thousands of posts at various forums describing what had happened. There was no official answer or guidance by any major SEO. I went out of my way to read everything I possibly could about it and wrote the first article about Google Update Florida.

My article, like any other article, was content. What set it apart from normal articles was that it captured an idea. The face of advertising on one of the world’s biggest distributed ad networks changed overnight and I had the first answer to the problem.

At that point, I still knew next to nothing about running an online business and had limited experience in SEO. At that point, I still thought “content is king,” but I did not yet know what content was.

Ideas that Sell

The best way to do SEO is to not need to worry about it. The way to do that is to create ideas that will naturally want to spread. Call Aaron Wall, SEO consultant does not sell. Below is a list of a few ideas which may help you sell.

  • Create a directory that is willing to lose money every single day that will eventually become the definitive resource for your category or a category slightly broader.
  • Provide a free news blog covering your topic. Make it completely non commercial off the start.
  • Create a value added service where your product is sold on the side.
  • Leave feedback when you come across things you think are cool. They make people feel good, and can help you get free links.
  • Create a parody website.
  • Be extremely opinionated.
  • Define something which has yet to be defined.
  • Be the first to do something.
  • Establish yourself as a person deeply rooted in the social structure of the web. Use the popularity of that idea and site to help your commercial ideas.

Example Idea

Many “ethical” SEOs use the phrase “Black Hat SEO” to describe unfavorable practices to help elevate their own status. Nobody ever defined what “black hat SEO” really was until I created Black Hat

The site is an extremely opinionated parody directory of worst practice SEO ideas and firms which is unlike any other SEO site on the web. The name stuck and now the industry is stuck with that being at least a semi-official answer and me being able to benefit from that position in the social structure of the web.

Quality Content Summary

  • Each page you write is one more you need to maintain. Large sites can be a burden to keep current.
  • Speaking too much is just as bad as not giving enough info.
  • You can type until your neighbors fingertips are blue and bloody and it will not matter until people syndicate your ideas.
  • People will not usually want to syndicate your content until you establish a reputation.
  • It is far easier to syndicate ideas than content.
  • The quality which makes quality content valuable is syndication.